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Petal School District Announces Two New Principals

June 30, 2022

During its meeting on Thursday, June 30, 2022, the Petal School District Board of Trustees approved the hiring of Tyler Watkins as the next Petal High School (PHS) principal and Dr. Joel Bowman as principal of Petal Middle School. Watkins replaces Dr. Zach Bost, who has been named superintendent of the Kosciusko School District.

Tyler Watkins, a 2006 Petal graduate, joins Petal High School after serving as lead principal for three years, the last two at Petal Middle School. An educator for 11 years, Watkins began his career as a history teacher at Laurel Junior High before returning to Petal as a physical education teacher at the primary school. He then served as history teacher and baseball coach at Petal High for four years, where he also worked closely with the administration as part of the PHS Leadership Team. In addition, Watkins served as data leader on the Professional Learning Community Team, mentor for at-risk prevention, professional development presenter, and on the Petal School District Leadership Cohort.

Watkins received a bachelor’s degree from Southeastern Louisiana University, a master’s degree in Educational Leadership, and a specialist degree in Instructional Leadership, both from William Carey University. He is currently working towards his doctoral degree in Educational Leadership.

“I am excited to continue building on the great work of the leaders before me at Petal High School,” said Watkins. “Being a graduate of Petal High, I’m excited to build on the relationships I made there as a student and a teacher while continuing our great partnership with the City of Petal.”

Watkins and his wife Katie, a fifth-grade teacher at Petal Upper Elementary, have two children: a daughter, Lowe (six), who is in the first grade at Petal Primary School, and son Cohen (two).

Dr. Joel Bowman joins Petal Middle School after serving as assistant principal and assistant director of Career and Technical Education at PHS for the last five years. He is also co-principal at the Petal Education Center and serves as lead facilitator on the district’s modified calendar team. A 13-year educator and three-time STAR Teacher, Bowman (recently named “Top 20 Under 40” by the Pine Belt News/Signature Magazine) began his career as an AP English teacher and varsity baseball coach at Stone County High School before moving to Petal. He also taught adjunct English classes for Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College.

Bowman earned a bachelor’s degree in English, a master’s degree in Educational Leadership, as well as a Doctor of Education degree from William Carey University.

“I’m looking forward to serving the teachers and staff at Petal Middle School,” said Bowman. “Their dedication to students has been evident by the quality young men and women they send to PHS each year. I’m also excited to get to know the students and parents. This community is very special, and I cannot wait to expand these bonds through my position at Petal Middle School.”

Bowman and his wife Christy, senior manager of student involvement at The University of Southern Mississippi, have two sons: Wynn (three) and Will (four months).

“We are very excited about Mr. Watkins and Dr. Bowman’s new roles at Petal High and Petal Middle,” said Matt Dillon, Petal School District superintendent. “Based on their leadership experience, internal knowledge of our school district and existing relationships with district staff, I am confident that they will bring a new perspective to our schools while further enhancing the wonderful things already happening.”


Tyler Watkins 

Tyler Watkins

Joel Bowman

Dr. Joel Bowman